I finally registered for the last MCAT date of 2015! Now comes the hard part, figuring out an effective study plan. Le sigh. I think I’ve mentioned before in my blog that I have been a long time lurker of SDN. This site has been an invaluable source of information for me in regards to MCAT prep and the medical school application process. Fortunately for me, the SDN community is really dedicated to helping each other out. Several SDNers have already taken the new MCAT in April and have shared their experience with studying for it. Based on what I have gathered from these test-takers, I have compiled my own study strategies for this exam that I wish to share.
I registered for the Sept 12, 2015 exam. The exam is at 8 am and I’m not a morning person. I majored in human biology and have taken at least two upper division biology classes that were taught solely through scientific papers. I also took biostats. I did not, however, take college level psychology or sociology; though I did get a 4 on my psych AP test. Also to be noted, the study of human bio incorporates a lot of pysch and socio by default. I took an introductory biochemistry class. I had to retake Orgo 1 and I’m terrible at physics. Seriously, it was the only high school class I got a B in and as an all As AP student, that was a very traumatizing event. Then in college, I kid you not, the only formula I knew 3 weeks after starting the class was F=ma.
For this exam, I will be using the complete TBR package. I purchased the set last year when I thought I was going to take the old MCAT before it changed. I will also be using the 9th Edition EKs complete study package. Those are my primary two resources for content review. For practice tests and questions, I’ve decided to purchase the 3 EK practice exams, the AAMC full-length exam, the AAMC question packs, 5 gold standard full lengths, and khan academy practice questions.
Total cost and links:
The Berkeley review complete package (minus the verbal reasoning book): $276 + shipping . Note: TBR does not have an online order option. You will have to mail in an order form. So if you would like to acquire these books, make sure to mail in your order form a month or two before you plan on actually studying for the exam.
9th edition EKs complete study package: $175- 205$.
EK practice exams: $150 , or $50 each.
AAMC question packs: : $72
5 Gold Standard full lengths: $ 175 for 3 months access. Or, individual tests: $20 for 1 month access/ $40 for 3 months access.
Khan Academy: Free!
Now the moment we have all been waiting for…
1. Develop a study plan
It helps tremendously if you sit down and outline your study plan based on the study materials you have at hand. Fortunately for you guys, and me, several study plans have already been developed from awesome SDNers that I will post below for reference. Hopefully, you find one that works for you. Keep in mind, you could definitely tweak some things around to make any one of these plans a better fit; or really, just develop your own.
1. EKs home study plan : This is provided directly on the EKs site for the 9th edition complete study package.
2. EK Schedule – 4 Month: This is the plan I will be utilizing. This plan was provided by SDNer Medicine4The3rdW. According to him, he made this plan using, “SN2ed’s original 4 Month schedule but modified it for ExamKrackers”.
4.2015 MCAT STUDY PLAN : This plan was provided by SDNer BoomBoom1232. According to him, he made this plan using, ” a 2015 adaptation from @SN2ed‘s and @mcatjelly‘s (above) study plans. Materials required: EK, TBR, Kaplan complete set, and Next Step Psychology and Sociology 2015 book.
5. 101 days MCAT study plan: This plan was provided by SDNer littlebear92. She provided this study plan and the materials required to follow this plan within an SDN forum. There was no stand alone of downloadable copy of the plan.
2. Incorporate daily scientific paper reading
According to what I have read from the April 2015 test takers, this new test is heavily focused on Biochemistry and passage comprehension. The passages are research heavy and will require a good understanding of how to interpret scientific data and results well enough to answer questions. Of course, understanding the topics discussed in each passage is important but equally ( and maybe even moreso) important is becoming familiar with reading and drawing conclusions from the data (i.e percentages, tables, graphs, etc) presented within scientific passages. To gain this familiarity and become comfortable reading science dense passages, I’ve decided to read one scientific paper a day. The cool thing about this is that it can be done anywhere and isn’t too time consuming! You could pull up a paper on your bus ride to school or work. Or, instead of going straight to sleep after a long day at work, you could briefly read a paper and make something of an otherwise unproductive day . It’s really not that bad! Plus, it’s important to get into the habit of reading scientific papers. As a physician, you will be expected to stay up to date on current research and clinical trials in your field of expertise.
One way to achieve this goal of reading a paper daily is just using google scholar to find journals or papers. Another option, and the option I have chosen, is to download the “read” by QxMD app. This app allows you to pick MEDICAL journal/research topics of interest and will conveniently present them to you on your phone. I don’t know about you, but I always have my phone within arms reach so this option is best for me. The link for the app is provided here. I have not started using this app, so I can not give you a complete assessment on the quality of the papers or the app itself. I will say that I have already customized my interests and I’m pleased with the list of papers and journals I have been presented.
3. Revamp my sleep schedule
There is already a blog post about my horrible sleeping habits. I’ve decided to revamp my sleeping schedule to optimize brain power during my actual test date and time. I’m never fully awake before 11 am. I don’t trust people who smile before 9 am. In college, I would take a red bull or two to survive those early morning classes and exams. The effect would eventually wear off, but by then I would have the option of going home. With this upcoming six hours exam, it’s really important for me to develop that mental stamina and focus in the morning without the temporary aid of sugar or energy drinks. For one, energy drinks are diuretic agents. Or at least, they are to me. So, having to take a portion of the exam doing a sitting “pee dance” is so distracting and not ideal. I think if you leave the exam room before the break period, you have to void it? Not sure, but I’m pretty sure they won’t be lenient about leaving the room. Also, I never eat breakfast. So, typically when I drink an energy drink in the morning it’s on an empty stomach. This always makes me queasy and uncomfortable. With the stress of the exam already an issue, any discomfort should be avoided. That being said, I need to become more of a morning person! I need to wake up early, eat breakfast, and be able to mentally focus in the morning if I plan to succeed on this exam.
To do this, I’ve decided to set a strict bed time of 10 pm and a strict wake up time of 6 am everyday. Hopefully, after a month of transitioning, the process won’t be so pain and I’ll be mentally prepared for my 8 am exam.
4. STOP WITH THE DISTRACTIONS
I get distracted easy. I get a notification “beep” on my phone and then 2 hours later realize I spent the entire time on facebook. Or, I’ll come home and work out while watching an episode of criminal minds and realize a few hours later that I’ve watched 3, 45 minute episodes. Some say moderation is key, I think for me just stopping the habit completely works best. Therefore, no more facebook, no more netflix or irokotv, no more instagram, basically no more accessing the internet without a predetermined and study related reason. Of course on designated break days I will allow myself to fully indulge. But if I don’t cut off any form of distraction on study days, September will roll around, and once again I won’t be prepared to take the exam.
After I take the exam in September and get my score back, I will definitely let you guys know how I did!